What is Anxiety and What are the Best Non-Narcotic and Non-Addictive Treatments for Anxiety?

Are you looking for non-addictive treatments for anxiety? This guide to anxiety disorders and treatment options — both medicinal an holistic — might help educate you on your options. Below is our list of top non-narcotic and non-addictive treatments for anxiety. Read on for detailed descriptions of each treatment option:

List of the Best Non-Narcotic & Non-Addictive Treatments for Anxiety:

Anxiety – as a general term – concerns the way your body reacts to stressful situations and circumstances. It is completely normal for everyone to feel some degree of anxiety when living through stressful situations, like taking a major exam or giving a speech in front of a large group of people. While this type of situational anxiety is often unpleasant, it can be beneficial, and ultimately drive the person experiencing it to do a better job (especially if they perform well under pressure). This type of anxiety is fleeting, and will resolve on its own once the test is over or the speech has concluded, as the case may be. Regular feelings of anxiety do not interfere with day-to-day life.

When it comes to anxiety disorders, the feelings of crippling stress and panic that an individual feels will become debilitating. Anxieties will directly interfere with daily life, and prevent the sufferer from engaging in activities that were previously enjoyed, spending time with friends and sometimes even leaving the house to go grocery shopping, or completing other menial tasks. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder throughout the United States, with more than 40 million adults over the age of 18 reportedly diagnosed. While anxiety disorders are somewhat easy to treat, it is reported that only 36.9% of those in need of treatment will actually receive it.

Types of Anxiety Disorder

There are several different types of anxiety disorders, ranging from the mild and moderate to the severe.

Common varieties of anxiety disorder:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) – This disorder is the most common, and is characterized by severe and ongoing anxiety that often interferes with daily life. Those with GAD will constantly worry about a number of different things, including interpersonal relationships, financial security, physical health, their work life and a wide variety of other common issues. GAD can be easily treated with a combination of medicinal and holistic treatment options, and it affects an estimated 3 million American adults on an annual basis.
  • Panic disorder – Those with panic disorder will experience frequent panic attacks at unexpected times. These attacks can be brought on by specific situations or by (seemingly) nothing at all. Brief periods of intense fear are coupled with physical symptoms like chest pains, shortness of breath and trouble breathing, heart palpitations, stomach problems and dizziness or light-headedness (often due to hyperventilation). Panic disorder is often treated with prescription medication.

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  • Social anxiety disorder – Also known as social phobia, this specific anxiety disorder is marked by an overwhelming and crippling amount of anxiety experienced in everyday social situations. Those suffering from social anxiety disorder also tend to feel extremely self-conscious. Some who are afflicted with this disorder will only experience symptoms when it comes to a very specific setting or situation – for example, they may only experience severe anxiety when engaging in public speaking or when eating in front of other people. Others with social anxiety disorder will avoid every type of social situation entirely. This type of anxiety disorder is usually treated with a combination of medicinal and therapeutic treatment.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops as the result of a traumatic experience (or set of experiences). Some examples of traumatic events that trigger PTSD include childhood abuse and neglect, sexual assault, significant accidents, time spent in the military, natural disasters and violent personal assaults. Those suffering from PTSD will experience flashbacks, avoid certain people, places and things, and often resort to substance abuse as a means of self-medication. In fact, the National Comorbidity Study reported that 52% of males and 28% of females who have been diagnosed with PTSD will also meet the criteria for an alcohol abuse disorder. Those who are afflicted with both disorders will need to be treated in a dual diagnosis treatment center.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – Those with OCD will experience recurrent and unwanted thoughts, which will often be coupled with compulsive, repetitive behaviors. Some common repetitive behaviors that those with OCD engage in include hand-washing, counting and cleaning. They believe that if they engage in these repetitive behaviors, the obsessive thoughts will go away or at least be effectively managed. Of course, this is not the case, and professional intervention will be necessary in order to successfully manage symptoms – which are harshly disruptive to day-to-day life.
  • Phobias – Those with a phobia will present with an irrational fear concerning a specific object, activity or experience. Having a phobia is much different than simply being ‘afraid’ of something. Many people have certain things that they are inexplicably afraid of, such as clowns, snakes or spiders. Those with a diagnosable phobia will be sent into a panic whenever the object, activity or experience they are afraid of occurs – even when there is a threat of it occurring. Phobias are disruptive to daily life and must be treated with intensive therapy.

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There are other classifications of anxiety disorder, such as separation anxiety disorder and illness anxiety disorder (fear of being away from a loved one and fear of getting sick or falling ill, respectively). It is crucial that those who are experiencing symptoms of anxiety disorders of any kind reach out for professional treatment. Treating anxiety is extremely important, because those who are left untreated will often turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of alleviating symptoms. Because of this, comorbidity rates are extremely high. Dual diagnosis treatment centers such as Immersion Recovery Center offer comprehensive, integrated care to those who are struggling with substance abuse and anxiety.

Non-Narcotic Treatments for Anxiety

Once an individual has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, he or she can begin to explore potential treatment options. Treatment for anxiety falls into two main categories — medicinal treatment options and psychotherapy/holistic treatment options. Those who have been struggling with a substance abuse disorder in conjunction with anxiety will want to look into non-narcotic treatment options. The following list includes some viable options for non-narcotic and non-addictive medicinal and holistic treatment options when it comes to quickly and effectively treating symptoms of anxiety.

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Non-Narcotic / Non-Addictive Anxiety Medicinal Treatment Options

  1. SSRIs – This class of medication – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – is one of the most commonly prescribed in the treatment of anxiety. This medication works by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, which ultimately leads to improved mood and a reduction of stress.
  2. SNRIs – This class of medication – serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors – has been proven effective in treating the symptoms of panic disorders and GAD. Not only does this type of medication help regulate the release of serotonin, but it helps release norepinephrine – a brain chemical that affects concentration.
  3. Buspirone – This is a non-narcotic and non-addictive medication that works similarly to an SSRI, though it only affects one subtype of serotonin receptor within the brain, ultimately leading to fewer side effects. This is an ideal medication for those who are struggling with mild to moderate anxiety.
  4. Hydroxyzine – This non-narcotic medication works by blocking histamine receptors within the brain, ultimately elevating mood and acting as a low-grade sedative.
  5. Beta-Blockers – These medications work to provide temporary relief in the case of anxiety-related episodes, such as panic attacks. They do not actually change the brain chemistry, thus they are not prescribed long-term. But beta-blockers are non-narcotic, and an ideal option for those who need immediate relief from intense symptoms.
  6.  Gabapentin (Neurontin) – Gabapentin is generally prescribed for nerve pain and seizures, but there is some study into the efficacy of gabapentin for anxiety. While considered an “off-label” use, treatment of anxiety conditions with gabapentin has seen promising results from initial studies and case reports.

Non-Narcotic / Non-Addictive Holistic Treatment Options

Here are common holistic treatments used to safely and effectively combat symptoms of anxiety:

Intensive psychotherapy – There are many different forms of psychotherapy that have been shown to help the symptoms of anxiety, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT helps individuals re-write the stories they tell themselves about their lives. The mind is a powerful tool — thoughts can either spiral us into worse anxiety, fear and anger. Or, conversely, help elevate us to a more serene state. Controlling the stories and perspectives we repeat in our mind can greatly help alleviate our anxiety.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – DBT is a form of CBT that focuses of four key tools: mindfulness focuses on improving an individual’s ability to accept and be present in the current moment; distress tolerance, which is geared toward increasing a person’s tolerance of negative emotion, rather than trying to escape from it; emotion regulation, which covers strategies to manage and change intense emotions that are causing problems in a person’s life; and lastly, interpersonal effectiveness which involves learning techniques to communicate with others in a way that is assertive, maintains self-respect, and strengthens relationships.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – EMDR is a form of trauma therapy that utilizes some sort of outside stimulus — often either flashing lights or vibrating objects, to alternately stimulate each side of the brain. The two different hemispheres of our brains process different information — one side the rational facts, the other feelings and emotions. By alternately stimulating each side of the brain, a person sometimes can reprocess traumatic memories in a way that creates healing and new emotional-factual associations. By dealing with past trauma, our brains and bodies can become less emotionally reactive in scenarios that trigger our anxiety.
  • Talk Therapy – Oftentimes our anxiety can build because we are stuffing our feelings about things occurring in our lives. These stored emotions build up in the body and spirit, creating an increasing sense of anxiety. By attending regular sessions with a therapist, we can offload some of our emotions so they don’t build up and become overwhelming.

Finding a therapist that you connect with and that specifically focuses on these forms of psychotherapy can be extremely beneficial in helping you to work through your anxiety. Learning emotional tools in therapy can be far more sustainable and long-lasting than taking a habit-forming anxiety medication.

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Inpatient treatment (integrated care) – Inpatient treatment can be a great tool to kickstart your recovery from anxiety. It can remove you from your current circumstances, give you some breathing room, and help you learn tools to take back with you to your normal life. In inpatient treatment, psychiatrists and psychologists can better assess your individual anxiety symptoms to help you craft a strategic plan for reducing your anxiety.

Mindfulness & Meditation – There are countless helpful resources, including meditation teachers on YouTube, meditation apps, books and audiobooks that can help you learn meditation and mindfulness techniques. When we experience anxiety, our body is going into a hyperactive state. Our central nervous system can go haywire. With mindfulness and meditation, we learn to pause, to tune into our breath, the breath deeply, to calm the mind and to focus on our well-being. Intentionally focusing on the breath helps calm the central nervous system, bring us back into our bodies, and slow down our reactiveness. Guided meditations (through videos or apps) can be extremely helpful in learning how to practice mindfulness and meditation.

Hypnosis – According to the Mayo Clinic, Hypnosis, also referred to as hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion, is “a trance-like state in which you have heightened focus and concentration. Hypnosis is usually done with the help of a therapist using verbal repetition and mental images. When you’re under hypnosis, you usually feel calm and relaxed, and are more open to suggestions. Hypnosis can be used to help you gain control over undesired behaviors or to help you cope better with anxiety or pain.”

At Immersion Recovery Center we offer dual diagnosis treatment, combining non-narcotic medicinal treatment options with proven holistic methodologies, ultimately providing comprehensive care that works to treat both existing disorders simultaneously. Our on-site psychiatrists will work to prescribe a non-addictive medication suitable to your individual needs, while our therapists and counselors will provide intensive therapeutic care. If you are struggling with what you believe may be an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, or if you have been diagnosed in the past and are currently struggling with substance abuse or dependency, we are here to help. Integrated care is crucial to achieving long-term sobriety, and our unique and individualized treatment program caters to both anxiety disorder treatment and addiction recovery. For more information contact us today.

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Reviewed for accuracy by :

Serving as the Inpatient Clinical Director at Immersion Recovery Center, Susan will work directly with staff members, clients, and family members to ensure the clinical program remains as effective and individualized as possible. Susan is no stranger to the fields of behavioral health and addiction. She has over 25 years of experience, working in an inpatient setting, an outpatient setting, acute stabilization and nearly all other settings in the realm of addiction recovery.